By Iris Ruth Pastor

Mother’s Day is over, but my intense feelings about my mother follow me as I go through my days. Hence this column. 

I hated my mother.

I hated my mother, especially when I was 13 and she adamantly refused to allow me to shave my hairy legs. 

I hated my mother even more when she restricted the numbers of sleepovers I could attend per month — fearing I would get “dissipated.” 

My friends thought that was hysterical. In fifth grade, I was 5 feet tall and weighed 110 pounds — hardly an ideal candidate for “Queen of the Dissipated.”

And then she had the nerve to demand I go to Sunday School each Sunday morning no matter how late I stayed up on Saturday night mooning after seventh grade guys I thought cool: Sammy Rolnick. Mark Silverstein. And of course, the one who would become my high school flame: Marv Kaplan. Geez, Mom.

I hated my mother when, in later years, if I had a problem, it became HER PROBLEM too and I ended up comforting her. That made me crazy.

For instance, when, due to our parents’ conflicts with each other, my first husband and I did not have a traditional Jewish wedding. My mother’s laments were totally self-focused on the disappointment of not getting to give HER DAUGHTER a wedding. She never took into account how I felt. 

When other young couples brought out their deluxe wedding albums showing elaborate huppahs and matching bridesmaids’ gowns in either shocking pink or kelly green, we had none to show but one picture taken in Rabbi Goldman’s (of blessed memory) study. I felt sharp stings of regret over not experiencing a full-blown wedding celebration. My mother, however, never considered that I had my own angst over a joy we both had been denied. 

I hated her as she aged and became more frail, less logical (she was never that logical to begin with) more needy, more stubborn and more demanding. She refused to go into assisted living. She refused to move closer to her adult kids. And she refused to accept that her hearing loss was untreatable. 

At the same time, I loved my mother with endless intensity. 

She was what I measured all my plans, dreams, opinions and observations around. 

She was the sun in my planet, radiating strong warmth and serving as my guiding post — my North Star. 

If my mom thought it was the right decision, then it was.

If my mom thought it was okay, then it was. 

My mother was just 20 years old when she had me, and by the age of 24, she was a mother of two young kids. 

Very typically, for she was a 1950’s housewife, she never went to college and much of her self-worth was predicated on the cleanliness of our home, the quality of the dinners she cooked and served nightly and promptly at 6:30pm and how presentable her three children “appeared” to the world. She put gargantuan effort into these endeavors.

And yet, she also sought out alternate orbits for herself in spite of the restraining times.

She bravely developed her own persona, writing letters to the editor on causes she championed.  

In her finished basement, she painted — floral pictures she lovingly gave as gifts.

She assembled elaborate table decorations and created clever handmade invitations for friends and family occasions. Even when money was tight, my father refused to let my mother get paid for her artistic efforts. 

It seemed to him a direct and negative reflection on his ability to support his family — a dinosaur reaction in today’s world for sure. 

She put together wild and swirling collages she presented proudly to her children. 

This particular “beauty” was comprised of nuts, bolts and screws. In 1968, It rested under our living room couch — brought out and hung-up just a few hours before my mother would arrive from Ohio for a visit. Neither my husband nor I could take a steady diet of seeing it in the main showplace of our apartment. And yet, not only did it outlive my first marriage, but I carefully kept it all these years. And now it hangs in my arts and crafts room in a prominent place.

In her later years — I’m not proud to say — I sometimes longed to be free from her emotional and physical demands — to live out my 60s, 70s, and 80s without always taking into account her desires and wishes and health crises.

“When will it be MY TIME?” I often wondered? 

And then she died. Quickly. On her 91st birthday in the hospice in Blue Ash. Five years ago. 

And now I’m free: 

Of her feedback that was sometimes too honest

Of her loneliness that she couldn’t seem to overcome

Of her lack of hearing that she couldn’t come to terms with

And now I’m free: 

To live my own version of my life 

To dream my own dreams

To chart my own course 

l hope that my mom has found peace and purpose — wherever she is.

And I wish I could stop missing her so intensely every single day.

I hope you all had a Happy Mother’s Day. 

And if you still have a mother, I hope you hugged her hard. 

photo of Iris and her mother and sibling
artwork by Iris' mother